Fifth Annual IAAC Film Festival

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FIFTH ANNUAL IAAC FILM FESTIVAL: Indian Independent & Diaspora Films
- November 2-6, 2005.
   
The 2005 iaac film festival ended with a stimulating party in an east village bar-lounge called STAY after we got there around 9.30pm sunday... aroon shivdasani who's belief and passion for the arts as manifested in iaac and a tremendous service to the community justifyably appeared the happiest person there with many others as well.

It was a heady experience to listen to throbbing familiar music, drink red wine or beer and chat with volunteers, film-goers and film-makers after a stimulating festival as a film-fan with a season ticket.

The last season-ticket I bought after winning a lottery in college was for a cricket match in Bombay. After I watched the match for 4 days, alone (and missed college), I sold my ticket on Sunday since the outcome of the match was known..... I never ever wanted to watch cricket again and have never done so even via radio. Often it helps to attempt ones fantasies to realize they are not satisfying instead of never trying or being forced not to try.

At the film festival I met three film makers with strong quantative and computer or business backgrounds. Saravanan's feature film is Pavala-kodi in Tamil; check www.pavalakodi.com; he lives in Philly and hoped to be at work in less than 12 hours after the party.... Arun Vaidya-nathan helped me understand his 3 minute film... Check www.arunhere.com where Arun hasmade other int'l short films too.

And Himanshu has an engg. background from Delhi with an MBA in Supply Chain Economics. He is a principal mgm't consult with a project at Safeway, CA where he spends only the work week. He flies out from NYC in a few hours. He says he will switch careers as he makes his big Hollywood feature film which he refused to discuss without his lawyer... Smart, young guy who spoke fluent Hindi as he pointed he made a quick decision after two weeks to rule out Bombay as his base since a script is'nt used there from fear of the story being stolen. Often even actors aren't told the complete story so it won't leak out. He cited Aamir was relieved he turned down the role since character actor Sharukh Khan took away the scene from hero Sunny Deol in Darr. This then led to a fallout between Sunny Deol and Yash Chopra who made the film and didn't let the story out even to Sunny out till it was shot. Wowed?

I got to chat the mg. dir. of Indie Film Productions a non-profit org and the second largest film org. in the US after Sundance at www.ifp.org - Puja or Pooja Kohli who introduced & ended every film I saw, and even expertly moderated a few discussions with film makers. Others were moderated mostly by journalists or funding organizations.

All festival staff were mostly Indian women volunteers. Very attractive but too young for me. Arrangements were A+ with wide range of Rajbhog's Indian foods, tea and lassi served by Indian models (again, unfortunately for me, they were young and male).

Two high points were watching a documentary that took nine years to make by Ali Kazmi of Toronto and Delhi who I talked with extensively. He also teaches in Toronto, as soon as today after he flies home on a 6am flight.

In Ali's docu. Continuous Journey, Gurdit Singh, a widower who traveled with his 7 year old son and led about 400 Indians from his base in Hong Kong by ship to Canada in 1914 challenges migration to Canada and by default the British Empire and USA.

The docu. was so moving with accounts of biased racial laws (changed only in 1967) that rocked the British Empire as the Koma-gata Maru lay outside Vancouver Harbour for 2 months while Gurdit Singh and the passengers were made to starve and thirst; their plight exacerbated by the British & Americans, as he and the Indian community in Vancouver, negotiated their entry on grounds of being British subjects.

I've bought Ali's DVD with music by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's disciple, Shahid Ali Khan's haunting 7.5 minutes punjabi songs and Kiran Ahluwalia's siren sounding punjabi ghazal from her CD, Beyond Borders and her folk song, Koka, from another CD I have. Nimmi educated me about the origins of Koka, which is a Pakistani /Punjabi folk song. I also learned Kiran Ahluwalia, 35 of Toronto married guitarist Rez Abbasi and they moved to NYC one month ago. She has her own website where the CD's are possibly less expensive than Virgin Megastore in nyc who did not have all her CD's, despite accompanying western musicians.

Ali's recent prize winning documentary Runaway Grooms which he hoped to title Family Business is about Canadian Punjabis who marry in India, then leave their wives behind because their extortinist demands AT or AFTER the marriage ceremony are not met by the bride's family.

Closer to home, the other Hollywood film, Waterborne directed by Smriti Mundhra who was interviewed after the film by Sabrina Dhawan. Sabrina was Mira Nair's student and "given the oppt'y" to write a screenplay for Mira's ideas of Monsoon Wedding and maintain Sabrina's original idea for a theme of female child molestation.

Waterborne is written by Ben Rekhi who is half white and half Indian, and son of Kanwal and Ann Rekhi. Kanwal was written up in Little India about a year ago possibly for being a dotcom millionnaire and social activist. This fast paced, action film is about a terrorist hoping to pollute LA's waters, leading to shortages and water distribution by the military as local 7-11 type stores also ration their supplies to irate customers who are often hot, angry and thirsty.

The 7-11 type store (LA size) is run by an Indian Sikh played by Shabana Azmi whose turbaned son played convincingly by Ajay Naidu is dating a young white woman. I have never seen such dramatic crescendo in kirtan and understood it so well as it was sung in quawali (read gospel) style while it was being translated for his girlfriend in the film. Needless to say, lots of sikhs, the LA gurdwara and sikh families are shown in their natural abodes instead of taxi drivers, Gunga Din or helping Harrison Ford win /lose as Indiana Jones where his stapled hat never falls off while riding a horse....

Waterborne's musical score is by a new gararge band, Dredge who have only 3 CD's and they play in manhattan this coming week. Addl'y some familiar Hindi songs play in the background at sikh home/s. Move over expatriate Mira Nair, the Indian-Americans are writing and financing their own stories now.

I thanked Suketu Mehta for writing his Pulitzer shortlisted non-fiction book, Maximum City about Bombay and congratulated him on still being alive for what he wrote after he gave out festival awards. These were won by Nina Paley for Sita Sings the Blues, where Annette Hanshaw's music from circa 1929 are lip-synched on animations from the Ramayana, since Sita is abducted by the bad guy. Waterborne, Continuous Journey and Call Center also won awards among others. You must see the short comedy on www.CallCenter.com in about a month.

Also check an India born director's website at www.RahulDas.com for info. on India Spiceland, one of his graduating films for a Master's from a Calif. college where drama is emphasized. Storyline goes like this: indian boy gets nostalgic about india while dating white girl possibly for green card. Then....

Lastly info on Dastaar: Defending Sikh Identity a 13 minute film, details on www.alsolikelife.com by Kevin B. Lee was partly shot in the American Gurdwara in Manhattan during one of my visits where I also met the film maker and got to know he has another stable day job.

There were several other films but I need to be at work in 6 1/2 hours...now that I'm back on earth having written this piece. Thanks for your attention.

   
  

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